Environmentalists and government agencies, including the Cebu Provincial Government, are closely working together to intensify efforts on protecting thresher sharks and mobula rays all over the province.
This after thresher sharks have been included in the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) with an overwhelming vote in a conference of parties last year in Johannesburg, South Africa.
CITES Appendix I is a list of endangered species, while CITES Appendix II is a list of animals that are threatened of extinction unless catching and trade of such species are strictly regulated.
Based on section 102 of Republic Act (RA) 10654 or the Amended Philippine Fisheries Code, the CITES decision officially took effect in the Philippines October 4, 2017, a year after the voting.
Thresher sharks frequent the Monad Shoal in Malapascua Island, Daanbantayan and have become part of the island’s tourist attractions.
In a press conference organized by PENRO and Greenpeace, Vince Cinches, ocean campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, said there are also sightings of thresher sharks in Moalboal and Samboan towns in southern Cebu, as well as in Amlan, Negros Oriental.
The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) vows to take part in the full implementation of the law and calls on others to do the same.
“The Province is committed in pursuing sustainable development and tourism to ensure that each of us will enable to sustainably benefit from the rich natural resources that our island has to offer,” said PENRO officer-in-charge Baltazar Tribunalo in a press statement.
The Provincial Board approved last year an ordinance that prohibits any individual or group to fish, take and possess shark species within provincial waters, unless a special permit is provided, stating that such activities are intended for scientific and educational purposes.
According to Cinches, there is still no national law that protects thresher sharks and all shark species.
He urged the national government to take as an example the ordinance approved by the Cebu Provincial Government and craft provisions for the protection of sharks.
With the CITES ruling, efforts to protect thresher sharks are expected to intensify since RA 10654, Section 102 (b) states that it shall be unlawful to fish, catch, gather, sell, possess, transport and export species listed in CITES Appendices II and III.
Violation of this carries the penalty of P300,000 to P3 million and an imprisonment of five to eight years.
The Cebu Provincial Government and organizations in Malapascua Island, like Save Sharks Network Philippines, has already called on the Philippine delegation and different countries to support thresher sharks Appendix II listing through the issuance of Provincial Resolution No 2014-15 September 2016.
The Philippines has over 200 shark species. Driven by annual trade value of $1 billion, humans kill about 100 million sharks every year resulting in the fast decline of their global population, as one third of these species are already threatened with extinction.
According to Larona of TSPS, shark meat here in Cebu is priced at P18 per kilo while its dried fin is mostly sold at P3 thousand to P5 thousand per kilo, depending on the quality.
Also present during the press conference at the Capitol were Josefina Flores from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR); Steve Vincent Larona of DENR’s Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS); and David Joyce, a dive resort owner in Malapascua Island.